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March 14, 2013
CAPT Scott Ritchie
Director, Military Discipline Law
THE punishments that courts martial or Defence Force
Magistrates (DFM) can impose on members convicted
of a service offence are set out in the Defence Force
Punishments vary depending on the authority impos-
ing the conviction, and range from reprimands through
to detention for periods up to two years at the Defence
Force Corrective Establishment at Holsworthy, and even
terms of imprisonment in civilian jails.
In determining the appropriate punishment to
impose, courts martial and DFMs are required to con-
sider both the general principles of sentencing applied
by civilian courts and the need to maintain discipline in
This may mean that more severe punishments are
imposed on ADF members than on civilians who com-
mit similar criminal offences.
When determining an appropriate punishment, courts
martial and DFMs are also required to consider mitigat-
ing factors, such as whether the convicted person admit-
ted guilt or cooperated with the prosecution.
The weight given to each factor to be considered by a
court martial or DFM is a matter for judgement in each
individual case. Therefore, even though the particulars of
a case may appear similar, it is possible that the decision
and punishments imposed may be different.
For example, recent courts martial and DFM results of
matters where members have obtained an allowance that
they were not entitled to receive demonstrate that a range
of different punishments can be, and often are, imposed.
Two charges of
obtaining a financial
advantage – DFDA
s. 61(3) and Criminal
Code Act 1995 s.
The member was
accused of knowingly
obtaining a rental allow-
ance that the member
was not entitled to
receive by failing to
advise of a change of
The member plead-
ed not guilty to both
charges and was found
guilty of both.
The member was
sentenced to 45 and
seven days’ detention
to be served concur-
rently, of which 15 days
JUDGEMENT: Punishment options vary depending on the nature of the offence and the authority
imposing the conviction.
Photo: LS Paul Berry
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